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Covid-19: Public Health England Review

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2020

What steps she has taken in response to the findings on the risks of covid-19 for BAME people in Public Health England’s report entitled “COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes”, published in June 2020. (903360)

What steps she is taking in response to the findings in Public Health England’s report entitled “COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes”, published in June 2020. (903363)

We are taking the findings of PHE’s report, “COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes”, which was published on 2 June, very seriously. The next steps are to fill the gaps in the report, which necessarily had some limitations. The Race Disparity Unit and the Department for Health and Social Care are working with me to do this. This vital work will help us to take appropriate, evidence-based action to address the disparities highlighted.

Given the delays between publishing the report and publishing the recommendations, and the likely delay now in implementing those recommendations, how do the Government propose to rebuild trust and confidence in their actions with black and minority ethnic groups and individuals?

I believe the hon. Lady is conflating two different reports. There was no delay in publishing the first report, which did not have recommendations. The second report was published by PHE only yesterday, and many of the recommendations are already in train. I refer her to the written ministerial statement that I laid yesterday, which should hopefully provide additional clarity on that.

I begin by paying tribute to the very many BAME staff I have worked alongside in the NHS, including in recent months. They are an absolutely vital part of the NHS team. That is why it is really important that we get this review right. It is crucial that we get the necessary expert advice to help us to do that. What steps is the Minister taking to get that expertise to support the work she is undertaking?

I agree with my hon. Friend. We are determined to proceed with this in an evidence-led way, and we will be engaging with experts in the field. On Friday, the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), and I held a virtual roundtable on these issues with a number of public health consultants and leading academics in this field, including Professor Michael Marmot. I am very grateful for their input. We intend to continue in this spirit by engaging with other experts such as the Office for National Statistics.

Professor Fenton’s report, finally published yesterday, highlights yet more evidence that socioeconomic inequalities, racism and discrimination are root causes of BAME communities being disproportionately harmed by covid-19, and that these injustices were already known and have already cost lives. The Government’s denial and delay further compound despair at their lack of care and concern. The seven practical recommendations that the Government should have acted on much sooner include risk-assessing our black and minority ethnic workers on the frontline. Black lives matter is more than just a slogan. So what immediate and decisive action will the Minister take now to develop and deliver culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools?

I refer again to the ministerial statement that was laid yesterday, which covers this. The Government did not delay publishing any report, and the recommendations that were published, on which most of the actions are already in train, can be seen on the website.